first we humbly seek for God. Then we humbly speak with God. Soon, though, we may proudly speak for God … and then we arrogantly speak as if we were God!
Friend of Brian’s

I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but every major heresy that has inflicted God’s people for the last 2,000 years has come from organized groups with “leaders” who thought they knew God’s mind better than anyone around them. Conversely, virtually every move of God among people hungering for Him was rejected by the “church” of that day, and the people that were part of that move were excluded, excommunicated or executed for following God.
Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore

An authority structure such as the church is the perfect culture for codependence. I see how complicit I was in its vivacity. I know people depended on me to make decisions for them in every sphere of their lives, from financial, to relational, to spiritual and everything else. And even though I resented it, I did allow it to some extent
the naked pastor

These quotes go hand in hand. The danger of heresy comes not from whether someone is a part of a local congregation or not, but from pride and arrogance. This pride and arrogance can be seen in an attitude that I/we [a congregation, denomination or religion] know God fully enough; that we have God’s authority or are operating under God’s authority – so of course we have the responsibility to impose our beliefs on another.

On the other hand, I have come to believe that Christianity is NOT God’s approved religion! Christianity is man’s attempt at compiling doctrines and practices into a neat and organized box. That God does not move exclusively or even primarily within this christian religion box, rather, God’s spirit hovers over the whole of the sea of humanity and is at work within all nations, people groups and religions. I am NOT saying that ALL religious roads lead to God; like a statement found in The Shack, I believe that God is on all roads and will meet humanity on whatever road its on. Do we, in the Christian Box, have something to offer others? Of course we do. But so might Buddhists, Muslims and atheists!

Finally, our beliefs, practices and actions ARE important. These things help to model us and the society we are apart of. As such, values judgments can be made on different worldviews and religious doctrines and dogmas. These affect how we  react to:

  • violence (9/11, the war on terror, …)
  • economics (our recession, the poverty of the majority of humanity, …)
  • power struggles (the struggle of protesters against political policies and actions, …)
  • ecology(global warming, oil spills, …)

So, for instance, I’ll reject and make value judgments on worldview boxes which  believes that:

  • the world will come a violent end as a means to a peaceful reign of their God
  • God will bless or curse certain people or groups of people based on their relationship to said God
  • believes that we need to make our culture adhere to our beliefs and practices
  • believes that the earth is destined to be renewed by their God so global warming is either not important or is not factual.

Rather I believe, base on my faith and the understanding of Jesus’ life and teachings that:

  • Peace is the means and the end. The reign of Christ, the era of the Messiah, has already been inaugurated in the life and death of Jesus.  (If there  is a second coming, it will follow this model of peace being the means and the end.)
  • Blessings and Curses from a deity is archaic. We who are living in the Kingdom of God must realize that any blessings we have, should be used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, release those in captivity …
  • Citizenship is not to any nation. As such, the policies of the  nation in which I live are not up to me to change.
  • The earth is God’s and it is our responsibility to care for her.

I am beginning to envision a horrific picture of the body of Christ. I DO NOT like what this vision shows me. The Body of Christ more resembles the Bride of Frankenstein.

In order to have a heavenly image of Christ’s body, we need to look at the whole body. The problem is that there are cancerous portions to the body feedings on itself. When pushed, they may say the others outside of their sect, are part of the body, but in their minds and in their doctrines they see the others as outsiders.  “Those who do not believe [insert doctrine here] like us are deceived!” is their battle cry.

“The liberals are deceived,” cry the conservatives.

“The conservatives are deceived,” cry out the progressives.

Do I think some are deceived? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, I am confident that I am deceived – I just don’t know where yet.

As I started to get a grand image of the Body of Christ, I started falling away from the congregation that I was apart of. And I believe that this was of God. As a [post-]Charismatic [not anti nor non, but post], I would say that this part of the Body is hemorrhaging. And not only I, but many ex-leaders and even current leaders of this movement are calling for its wake-up call.

For example, one of the sore point of what I came out of was the idea of “God’s Authority” and “God’s Government”.  Not that all charismatic’s have the same idea or model of what this looks like, but the particular portion that I came out of very much had a papal/apostolic authoritative headship model. We all had authorities that we needed to submit to.

I believe that this model is a deception! I believe that this model is derived more from the Old Covenant and from the ruling of Rome then it does from Christ’s upside-down teachings of a non-authoritative, influencing, servant leadership. There is still accountability, there is still God’s order and governing, it’s just that these do not look like the world’s equivalent.

However, this debate is neither here nor there. The fact is that the poison of the cancer is not in these differing views but in the total rejection of the rest of the Body’s input. Truly the extreme of the apostolic/papal governance model is but one of many models used throughout the rest of the body. And all these other views have their biblical scholars that will argue for their positions. I firmly believe my position is the most sound biblical, christocentric position, and I will stick up for it. However, the deception greater than me being wrong in my position, would be my believing that my position is God’s position. The deception most dangerous to the Body of Christ is any teaching given in such an authoritative spirit (spoken from a pulpit as fact, as biblical and as non disputable) that it trumps all other opposing teachings in the Body and is seen as God’s Teaching. Such an arrogant, self-righteous authority is the fruit that reveals its source.

 There are countless other beliefs and doctrines that we need to get over. Discuss them, dialogue over them and debate them? Sure; To take a stand in one position as though it were God’s?  God forbid.  Once we stop fighting for these positions as though they were our own, then and only then can God himself lead the whole Body into the truth.  And I would not be surprised to find out that many of these opposing views are all part of the Truth.

If  I were to be honest, I do not hold out much hope for a better picture of the Body of Christ any time soon. One that includes Orthodox, Catholic, Protestants, Anabaptists, Reformed, Charismatics, Emergents, pre-modernists, modernists, post-modernists, …. I do not hold out much hope because this Body is made up of humanity; specifically, a breed of humanity that is, and historically has been, divisive and hateful towards one another in the name of God, rather than loving one another out of the heart of God.

I can only hope that some would read this and take comfort and loosen their strongholds. However, I know that the reality is that for some this will be heard as the rant of a deceived liberal apostate.

I have been rebuked in different degrees by many for  wasting time with this philosophical, theological  stuff.  I’ve been told to “just trust the bible and get on with it”. Of course, these rebukes and accusations of wasting time and being told to “get on with it” are more my take on what I felt was being said then the actual words coming out of the mouths of those saying them. Because of all this, I feel that I should give an explanation as to why I pour so much energy in this pursuit.

Worship.

Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed to one or more deities. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something.
Wikipedia

It is my conviction that we become like what we worship. There are all kinds of people that worship God. The problem is that the God being worshiped is not always the same. There are many images of God even within the Christian faith. Many or most, if not all, of these images are idolatrous, they are fashioned out of our own minds.

I think that with the birth of Christianity came the birth of a new spiritual discipline: theology. Theology has to grow to be a new task, the prayerful reflection on and invocation of the one true God. That is why in Romans 12, Paul, summoning people to obedient worship, says “you have to be transfromed by the renewing of your mind.”

It is not enough to coast along, following a few rules, doing a few odd things here and there, hoping it will all work out. It is not enough to “just follow Jesus”. We need to follow the Jesus that is the result of theological discipline. And we cannot simply follow the Jesus of our ancestor’s discipline, we have to make Jesus real to us and in our current cultural context.

I believe that all of us needs to be engaged in this discipline to some degree. Not every one needs to be active primary participants, but we all need to be active listeners and be willing to put in two cents from time to time. Because I believe that this discipline is not a personal one but a communal one.

Does A Church Need A Building To Be A Church? Here is an encouraging story.

FAYETTEVILLE, GA — A church in Fayetteville is closing its doors but not its hearts. Rolling Hills Baptist Church is challenging traditional ideas and selling the church and using the money to help people.
read the story

Religion is temporary. Once we catch a glimpse of what it points towards, it begs to be discarded. Should we hold onto it long after it has served its only true purpose, we only slide back into a state of being that ushers us away from the simple joy of living life with friends and neighbors.
Shawn Anthony

More and more I have a burning passion to enter into a community of faith that has more in common with family then it does with club. So much of institutional Christianity gets bogged down with structure and maintaining what it is, that it misses out on being family. The other side of this coin is those that discard the institution and enter into distant family relationships. Sure they get together, but it is almost by accident.

I believe the true church – the ekklēsia – involves a coming together with intent. In the comments to a blog I wrote:

I hate using the word ‘church’, as it has come to take on so much baggage that is not what ekklēsia means. Sure the ekklēsia will meet and have gatherings, as a matter of fact, it could be said that a group of individual Christians who never come together in community are not the ekklēsia. Ekklēsia holds within it an understanding of gathering together.

My belief is that the ekklēsia gathering need not, and possibly should not be institutionally structured. It is more organic and simple. the ‘Institutionally structured’ church requires effort to be put into the structure by many people and requires a top down leadership structure not unlike the gentiles (Luke 22:25) The result is an exoskeleton structure that will remain even if the Spirit leaves.

Jesus said that were two or three are gathered… Assembling together is all about relationship. If an institutional ‘church’ is the ekklēsia it is because of the relationships and is despite of the structure.

and

Institutions are a product of this world. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world.

The institution gives us a glimpse of this coming together with intent that the non-church ekklēsia neglects. However, I have the conviction that “with the institution comes much baggage”. God has placed on many hearts a desire to leave this baggage behind, and there is a growing contingent of faithful believers who are struggling to come to grips with a religion-less, non-institutional expression of our faith.

The early ekklēsia met daily.

We are leaving a Christianized culture that met twice on Sunday and a few times throughout the week.

We are becoming/ have become a post-Christian culture that is swamped with time commitments which makes meeting once a week burdensome.

In one sense, we have an even greater need to get together; however, to survive in our culture, we become so busy that there is little time left in a week. All too often, I fear, we neglect relationship building – both within the ekklēsia as well as missionally – due to time constraints that result from our religious commitment to go to our weekly events. We use up our relationship time with our religious meetings.

I guess the warning is that as we ‘discard the religious’, we do not neglect  relationships.

I have no doubt that this process  of working out our faith outside of the institution will be messy. But I also have no doubt that it will be worth it.

Here is a great post that says it better than I could.

Some of these posts were first put on Facebook as notes and  part 1 of ‘What should ‘Church’ look like’  created quite the stir with over 500 comments.

Its funny, of all my posts, that one seemed to me to be the least controversial. Maybe I’ve just wrestled over this issue with God so much that it became mundane to me. Or, maybe this is an issue that strikes at a chord of disillusionment many are feeling in the Body today. Even though my other writings deal with similar disillusionment, this topic is in your face. We experience it every week, we can put a face to it.

Every where I look, I see all kinds of people that are struggling with a disillusionment. There are:

Some of these people are hurt and bitter, with or without cause. Though this bitterness is not good or even right, there are probably more people where they came from that are remaining in their situation and in their bitterness. From what I have read, those that remove themselves from the source of their hurt, find healing.

Just as often though, there is a disillusionment and the desire to walk in something that they see in their bible but that is hampered by the machine. And most notable to me is that the people that are leaving to try something new, were leaders in the old thing. (Could be that we are just hearing from leaders because they are, well, leaders).

I look at this movement and see hope. I see the hand of God doing something new in our day. Others may look at this and see the enemy. What ever side we fall on, we need to recognize that these people are still apart of the Body. We need to love on them, embrace them, and even include them. To say that God cannot be active in their midst because:
a) they do not have the same leadership structure or
b) are doing something out of hurt
is to:
a) dismiss all churches that do not have our leadership structure. I belong to a church that have elders that rule over the congregation. There are other denominations that have popes and some that have elders that influence but the congregation votes (by majority or by consensus)
and b) heaping judgment on pain.

As I am on the side line cheering these fore runners on, part of me is envious. I think that these people will be remembered by history as the unnamed heroes of the second great reform. Often I feel the desire to jump ship and follow after them; but I have hope that change can come to the old guard. Like the first reformation, there are those who are inside the institution working for reformation and those that separate themselves. I pray that we will not make martyrs of those that choose, by choice or by accident, to walk away and live in what God is leading them into.

I believe that this new reformation will be marked by a desire for unity. The global community and flood of information make it easy for us to see our enemy’s side of things. And though we may never come to an agreement with them, we will see that they are real human beings and not just those witches in some other city. Once we know them as human, it becomes easier to pray for them and bless them rather than burn them at the stake.

The other thing I see happening in this move, is that all forms of hierarchy are being destroyed. In my reading of the New Testament, it is very clear that we are all brothers and sisters and that Jesus alone is the head. Sure there are elders and deacons that are recognized in the Body, but these are not offices and do not hold authority over others. They are examples, guides and even helpers on our joint journey.

Lastly, I think there will also be more recognition of the Spirit’s influence in every believe. God can distribute gifts, ministries, effects [1 Cor 12] as he desires to a gathering of 100, 1000 or even 10. He can even give some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. There are some that believe this can only happen by the blessing of the pope while others believe it needs the blessing of the elders. I believe, more often then not, God’s gifts go unrecognized by anyone but Him and possible the recipient.